What's your Problem?

Have I left it too late to have a career?

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Q: When I was in my twenties, I watched my friends being sucked into jobs that utterly consumed them in big corporations that just seemed to make them miserable. I was happy to drift and work in jobs that didn't require me to do crazy hours. Now, in my mid-thirties, I'm craving for more. My friends have all done well financially and I feel that maybe I made the wrong decision. I don't know how to change things and I'm panicking I've left it too late.

A: This is the sentence that intrigues me: 'Now, in my mid-thirties, I'm craving for more.' More what, exactly? More work, more challenges? Or just more money?

I'm making the assumption that, though you envy your friends their salaries, what you've begun to crave is what good jobs represent: a miniature world of opportunity, companionship, competitiveness, apprehension, triumph and disaster. And then the money comes, too. But with the best jobs, that's not why you work; money's the welcome by-product of working.

So my first bit of advice: don't start ranking possible jobs by average salaries. Instead, look back at the last 10 years of your life. Yes, you've been drifting; but surely you've also been observing? You've bumped into things you enjoyed doing and were good at - and things that you didn't take to at all. You've seen people less able than yourself getting away with things. You've noticed how some bars/shops/petrol stations/restaurants/businesses seem to flourish while others don't. Unless you've been going round with eyes tight shut, you'll quite unconsciously have built up a formidable body of experience.

I agree, it's not conventional experience of the kind that shines out from a CV; but it's real enough - and it should give you a clear sense of direction. Sort out in your mind the kind of job that, if you had a private income, you'd happily do for nothing; you must have come across some. Then scan all the job ads, in the press and online, and see if you can find a match.

Approach each prospect individually; you'll be an unusual applicant. Tell them the truth about your life to date and don't expect significant position or reward immediately: all you ask is the chance to earn both. Once you've got your teeth into something, at however lowly a level, your maturity, energy and unleashed enthusiasm should propel you quickly upwards.

So, no - you haven't left it too late. Just don't expect to catch up in one great bound.

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